Sunday, August 03, 2014

Motherless Monkeys

The Isthmus describes some of the controversy around proposed tests of macaque monkeys and infant stress, apparently with a focus on depression. I'm afraid I don't trust WisconsinWatch to accurately describe the purposes of animal research. Even non-ideological popularizers are less than fully reliable, and I've tried from time to time to re-analyze stories. Unfortunately I don't always have the time to devote to the exercise.

This is old ground, the detractors say. I'm not 100% sure about that.

On my thesis experiment, one of the researchers told us that one of his wife's college friends had a student job that among other duties involved cleaning up some of the labs where this kind of research went on. I gathered that he thought this was the cloth-vs-wire surrogate mother experiment, but I don't think the dates work for that--he was only about 10 years older than me. At any rate, the cleaning lady was softhearted, and would take baby monkeys out of their cages and cuddle them--and apparently never got caught at it.

Hmm. If the monkey was disturbed and would run or bite, I'd bet she wouldn't cuddle it much, but if it wasn't so bad off, I'd bet the contact would make it happier. I think I see a way results could be skewed with nobody having a clue.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

It sounds too convenient. But it does indeed point up how easy it is for such experiments to be wrecked.

A supposed quote from an ethologist: "never use cats. Cats screw up your data."

james said...

Yes. The first thing I thought of was "would this have been enough to keep the monkeys from going completely nuts?" Maybe the motherless stress is worse than they thought.

I quick-googled cats:
Cat's don't care?

and ran across this oldie in the comments:

"a psychologist wants to see what a chimp will do when left alone in a room with no stimulus. flat grey walls ; diffuse lighting ; no windows ; hidden door ; no cats, shirts or heat pads. So, the shrink locks the chimp into the room, waits 10 minutes to let the chimp stop bouncing off the walls and get on with whatever it is that chimps do when alone in a room. And the shrink goes up to the outside of the door and removes the key from the keyhole, bends down to see what he can see.
What he can see is a chimp’s eyeball."